The few weeks that we knew each other now are mostly sketch lines I’ve traced and retraced through time for dramatic effect. There are dry leaves and dress forms, an early morning breakfast at a greasy spoon, the lingering impression that you never went down on me. For us it is always late fall, and perhaps that is why I loved you.
I met you at a late Halloween party and never told you Merry Christmas, though we did get to trudge through the snow together. You bought me a novelty shot for my 21st birthday, and then if memory serves you vanished into the ether.
The trouble is that memory doesn’t serve. It does as it wills without ever letting on, coming to call or abandoning one forever, seemingly at random. No matter how many times you think you’ve moved this soggy cardboard box out of the cold attic and into the Easterseals van, it can fall down and break your foot at any moment.
The one thing memory will not do is stay still. Or maybe that is how you forget. But to remember, the whole thing buzzes in time, gathering mold and hoarfrost on the way.
At some point you’re remembering yourself more than other people or things. Or maybe you’re doing this the whole time, and you just don’t realize it until you’re older. I still think about this even though it doesn’t matter, I guess because I was still me. Or I guess because there was never an ending. Or I guess because I wonder how it ever happened at all.
You were dressed like a cowboy. You had some sort of yellowed Western shirt, and you were a little sweaty and drunk. So ruddy-cheeked. So beautiful. I remember you smiling a lot, eyes closed. I only remember the party because you were there. A Halloween party in early November in a strange beige apartment on one of those one-block little streets in Kerrytown. “Do you want to…go home with me?”
These are not the lines I have traced over and over. I am trying to sketch new ones. I am trying to remember the good part. The part where we ate popcorn (?) under a blanket with your roommates in the living room, cackling at something stupid on the TV.
Am I right? Did we not make love the first night? I think I’m right. It was so cold, and we…stumbled up to an attic room? A strange attic room with a futon, facing a big window looking out over one of those little streets in Kerrytown. We got naked and our sweaty drunken bodies came together in an embrace that lasted past dawn, shivering hot and young.
The kind of morning when maybe your roommate had her hair pulled back in a beautiful sheer scarf, Fleetwood Mac on the record player, tofu and onions in a pan. When you need a cigarette and your toothbrush, and you kind of wish you were in your own bed already, but also never want to leave.
The way I remember it, the town is blanketed in brown leaves, not desiccated, but rustling, damp in spots and clinging. We kick through these leaves – probably four canvas shoes between us, and two threadbare thrifted jackets. Me from poverty and you from poetry, in that look that got us all labeled hipsters.
A carpet of these leaves under the outdoor table we take up at the diner. We kick them away and order…hippie hash. Oh, no doubt about it, I was a hardcore vegan back then, and I would have ordered hippie hash. I think you did, too, but with feta. The kind of rough and tumble diner where you can still get lovingly prepared vegan food.
I bet we had just brilliant conversations. I think about visual art. But can I tell you something? Mostly I remember your face. Now that you visit my memory again.
Would you believe how much I’ve changed? Not that it matters. But so much has changed. You disappeared, and your best friend somehow became my best friend, and now she’s not my best friend anymore. That’s how much time has gone by. Approximately one entire best friendship.
I love Jesus now. Again. Would you believe that?
You’re Polish – do you love Jesus? I honestly can’t remember. Probably you don’t, except maybe on Wigilia.
But everyone loves Jesus on Wigilia.
Who did we talk about, Malevich? What was it you liked, the Russians, or bold color? I want to look at wild paintings and nibble the top of your ear.
Perhaps I once did.
I feel like we would have talked about Gertrude Stein. I won a prize named after her, you know. Did you know that? What would I have been to you by the time that happened?
Nothing at all.
The good part. Laughing, laughing so hard when we all got locked out one night coming home from the bar, in the middle of a blizzard. Someone I think slid in through a window and then more laughing, and then we made love.
For the last time? Fuck.
The good part.